How to Avoid “Sustainabilty Guilt” During this Shopping Season

December 19, 2023

So I don’t know about you, but this season has brought up a lot of last minute plans, events and occasions that require outfits I don’t currently own. I’ve been working so hard to break up with fast fashion bit by bit, whilst trying to build my mindfulness and intentionality towards my wardrobe and my shopping habits. Last minute plans and intentional shopping can really butt heads like angry goats and I was NOT enjoying the inner conflict it caused me. That’s when I started to think, I really cannot be the only person this is happening to around this time of year. Especially with the growing concerns for sustainability within the fashion industry, the introduction of capsule wardrobes a few years back and other causes for mindfulness. But the thing that really got to me was what my friend said to me… She reminded me that some events require you to focus on the people, memories and good times more than it requires you to think about how you’re shopping. Sometimes, because of this, you may have to put your pride aside (yes, it’s not always pride, it’s more of a moral issue but sometimes pride is hiding in there). So I had to do what I’ve been working to avoid, and reacquaint myself with fast fashion. So if you’re having to do the same, here are some tips to cope with any and maybe avoid some “eco-guilt” you may be feeling.

There are many reasons why we might struggle, so here are some situations you may relate to, and how to cope.

1. The fashionable struggle.

It can be so hard to find items that match your style, that are in your budget, with quick delivery when you second-hand shop online or even in-store. Especially if you have a very specific outfit vision in mind. Fast fashion makes some gorgeous designs sometimes too! They can be designs that haven’t yet been made in that specific way and it can be hard to find an alternative. That’s okay. If you know this is something you won’t leave to get moth holes in your wardrobe, something you’ll make thorough use out of, and it’s not an impulse buy, you can purchase it. Plus sometimes another struggle is there when you find something second-hand but you’re on a deadline and you know that even if it’d be the perfect mindful choice, it won’t get to you in time. There’s not much you can do, yes you can message the seller and see if they can ship it faster, but sometimes postal errors happen. The Next-Day Delivery of fast fashion websites really help to relieve the stress, especially if you need to return it. Don’t feel guilty if this is your situation. You’re trying, and sometimes the circumstances just aren’t ideal. 

2. Budget, deadlines and outfit themes. 

Not having enough money to buy something but having a deadline to buy it by makes fast fashion so alluring. You can look great for an event, without spending money right now. Companies like Klarna, and Clearpay, and other BNPL schemes really help with this. It’s okay to have an event deadline and not enough money. In these occasions, buying fast fashion is not only fine, it’s super helpful! However it’s your approach to this that will make a difference. For example, if it’s a formal event and you know you don’t own formal clothing, make this is an investment piece to avoid this struggle again in the future. Take your time when choosing. Shop intentionally and buy something you know you can re-wear. However, if the event requires something specific and it’s not quite your style or a colour you don’t normally wear, if this event or person is important to you, choose them over your sustainability. I’ll touch on this more later. 

So, you’ve maybe recognised a problem that you face, but what do you do now? Keep reading for some tips!

1. Shop with the future in mind. 

When you’re buying for this occasion, take some time to make sure whatever you’re getting is something you can bring back out of the wardrobe. If possible, try to avoid just buying for the event alone, make sure whatever you’re buying is something that maybe goes with multiple items in your wardrobe, allowing you to build multiple outfits, or is something you need for similar occasions so you know you’ll have a reason to wear it again. For example, if it’s for a party without a theme, maybe finding a jumpsuit, or something that you like, but something that is also easy to wear again or will be perfect for future events is a brilliant choice. It’s also a great chance to buy that outfit you’ve had your eye on for a while but no occasion for. I say this because that outfit is less likely to be an impulse buy, it’s a piece you’ve thought about multiple times, so you’re more likely to want it/use it. However, sometimes this really isn’t always the case, which leads me to my next point.

2. If it’s a specific theme like matching pjs for a movie night, it’s okay to just have fun. 

Sometimes, if you all have to be matching, like bridesmaids at a wedding, or for themed parties etc, then it can be harder to be mindful as you want to make the person(s) involved happy. Plus most of the time, these themes don’t match your wardrobe. This is where my friends’ advice comes into play. The most important thing in this situation is enjoying the time with your loved ones and making memories. You may be able to sell the outfit on afterwards on places like Vinted or Depop and make some money back. You are then also helping someone else who needs an outfit like that and is trying to do it sustainably. It’s a win win! You make memories, you help someone else, and you don’t have to let it gather dust in your wardrobe! So maybe that’s a win-win-win?

3. Remember, mindful shopping and breaking up with fast fashion is a journey.

It won’t always be successful and life happens. Being sustainable is recognising that you won’t always be, but doing your best to minimise your impact if possible either by who you shop with, taking extra care in buying something of quality that will last or by treasuring it when you own it. The point of being mindful is to be intentional. You’re taking your time making decisions, maybe looking into the fabric, the styles,  or considering how often you’ll wear it. You’re trying to cut down the impulse buys. If you like it, and you know you’ll get a lot of wear out of it, if it makes more than 1 outfit in your wardrobe, it’s okay to buy it. You’ve still been intentional. Even if it doesn’t tick a single one of those boxes, don’t discredit all the hard work you’ve done up until this point, big or small. You’re still on your journey, you haven’t gone backwards, you’re still going forwards. Don’t be so hard on yourself! 

4. Enjoy yourself.

This time of year and other times of year, if you’re doing something for an event, just enjoy it. If it’s you and friends and you’re all buying sets but they all come from Temu or SHEIN or other very fast fashion stores, maybe that’ll be as hard of a pill to swallow for you as it is for me. However, you’re allowed to just enjoy it. Worst comes to worst you can sell it again really cheap on vinted or Depop. At least this is more circular even if it isn’t your most desirable outcome.  

The point of this journey is to be better than YOU used to be. Not be better than anyone else. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You’re just following something that’s important to you, making wiser decisions and growing on your journey. But the journey is still ultimately yours. It can be hard to choke the name of a fast fashion brand out of your mouth when someone asks you where you got something from, but if you’re treating it well, making it last and wearing it as much as possible, then have you really messed up? Did you really go wrong? I don’t think so. 

If you’ve gone from shopping for EVERYTHING under the sun on ASOS once a week, to only buying skincare and perfume from there once a month, you’re winning. If you used to be in Primark buying something twice a month but now you only buy from there once a year, you’re winning. If you still shop with ASOS every week, but now you’re starting to buy some things second-hand, you’re winning. The point is, you’re growing and improving and creating change. For that, you’re a winner. Keep going! 

I hope this has helped you! If you know anyone struggling with the same thing, or just think it’s worth the read, share this with them! You may help them out too.

Until next time! – Abi Grizzle

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